Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Iodine tablets seem to have given the calves and lambs a boost

Perhaps it is wishful thinking but both the calves and lambs seem to be extra hardy this year.
Perhaps it is wishful thinking but both the calves and lambs seem to be extra hardy this year.
John Joyce

John Joyce

With the recent turn of weather events, I have decided to leave the fertiliser spreader parked up until this wet and windy spell has passed.

My soil sampling report proves for interesting reading.

The entire farm, with the exception of the silage ground, showed a high reading for potash with most fields having an index 4. On the other hand nearly all the farm recorded low levels of phosphate. I would have presumed it would be the other way around given the high levels of meal we are feeding.

The silage ground requires both and it will get a compound this year instead of straight nitrogen to try and address this problem.

On the rest of the farm there is no need for potash, so we will either go with straight phosphate and CAN or a compound with just the two chemicals in the mix.

The entire farm bar two fields requires a tonne or two per acre to top up levels. This will bring them up to the correct pH to get the best use from the soil and the fertiliser.

Knowing exactly what is required on your fields is key with the high cost of fertiliser.

Calving and lambing are now in full swing with no major problems to report. Since the cows and the ewes were feed on Redstart for the duration of the winter I have being placing iodine tablets in the drinking bowls once a week as this crop is low in the trace element.

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The tablets are a slow controlled release tablet that can be given eight weeks prior to calving, four to six weeks beforehand and throughout the breeding season at the rate of one tablet per cow per week.

Perhaps it is wishful thinking but both the calves and lambs seem to be extra hardy this year.


The cows remain on the slats for as long as possible before being placed in the straw bedded calving pens. The aim was to turnout the cows within a few days of calving but the turn in the weather has put a stop to this.

For me it is absolutely key to observe the temperament of the cows and the new heifers at calving. I have zero tolerance for mad cows or wild cattle on the farm.

With so many farm accidents related to issues with cows at calving time I tend to observe from a distance and let them get down to do the job in hand. For years I was jumping into the pen straight after a cow had calved to spray iodine on the calf's naval and check to see is it a bull or heifer. Now I take a more measured and calmer approach to the job and let nature take its course.

No cow has acquired assistance yet, however, the calving gate and jack can be called into action if needed. These two pieces of equipment have been worth their weight in gold for me over the years.

Over the last number of years we have added extra lights and drinking troughs to the calving shed. All the calves are observed after calving to see if they can suck. If they don't, I feed some defrosted colostrum that I have frozen in reserve or in case of a weak calf or a set of twins.

Last week the first pen of factory fit cattle went to slaughter. I was happy with the weights and fat scores. Like other years a batch of cattle will be fed in the sheds with the aim of being ready in late May.

Over the next week I will access what animals will need to be turned out to grass and pick the ones to be finished inside by that date on ad lib meal. It has worked well in recent years.

John Joyce farms at Carrigahorig, Co Tipperary

Indo Farming